Peter in this passage called upon his listeners to repent. What did he want them to do?
The word repentance itself means a change of direction, to turn from the path we are on and begin walking on another road. By nature we are on the path that leads to destruction, and those who leave it and begin walking to heaven do so by the activity of repentance. This is a useful picture of repentance, but what does the person look like who is walking in this new direction?
Repentance is an intelligent action of the heart. The person that we observe walking in this new direction is not confused. He understands what he has done. His change of direction is based on information.
Further, repentance is an emotional action of the heart. The person walking along the road has a tear in his eye, in other words he is a contrite person, grieving for the sins he has committed against God. His emotions are affected. He is appalled by his sins. Such a person cannot be indifferent to the information that he has received.
And repentance is a volitional action of the heart. The person walking along the road is committed to this new direction. He has said farewell to his previous lifestyle and now walks in a way that pleases God. Each step in his new direction takes him further away from his old life, and he walks with a steadfast step towards heaven.
So repentance involves comprehension, contrition and commitment. We can add another ‘C’ to the list. Repentance is always Christ-centred, especially Jesus on the cross. Such repentance is described in Zechariah 12:10 (KJV): ‘And I will pour upon the house of David, and upon the inhabitants of Jerusalem, the Spirit of grace and of supplications: and they shall look upon me whom they have pierced, and they shall mourn for him, as one mourneth for his only son, and shall be in bitterness for him, as one that is in bitterness for his firstborn.’